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College Football Preseason Rankings / Team Info ∙ Updated 20180828

Discussion in 'RayGator's Swamp Gas' started by mulegator, Feb 16, 2018.

  1. mulegator

    mulegator Neanderthal Ninja Vigilante Moderator VIP Member

    Jun 25, 2007
    Here's another partial "consensus"

    Rank Team Total Points Athlon Street and Smith Lindy Arena Fanatic Phil Steele

    1 Clemson 147 2 2 1 1 2
    2 Alabama 144 1 1 2 6 1
    3 Ohio State 137 4 3 3 5 3
    4 Georgia 129 3 4 4 10 5
    5 Washington 124 8 7 8 4 4
    6 Wisconsin 122 9 6 5 7 6
    7 Miami-Florida 119 6 8 7 8 7
    8t Michigan 110 5 9 18 2 11
    8t Oklahoma 110 10 5 6 15 9
    10 Auburn 105 7 12 9 3 19
    11 Michigan State 97 12 11 10 12 13
    12 Penn State 94 11 10 11 17 12
    13 Notre Dame 87 15 14 12 19 8
    14 Stanford 76 18 13 13 20 15
    15 Boise State 73 19 21 14 14 14
    16 Florida State 59 13 18 16 - 18
    17 Texas 58 20 23 - 13 10
    18 Southern Cal 53 21 15 19 - 16
    19t Florida 50 17 - - 9 17
    19t Virginia Tech 50 16 16 17 25 -
    21 Mississippi State 49 14 20 20 - 21
    22 Texas Christian 48 24 - 21 11 20
    23 West Virginia 41 22 22 15 24 -
    24 Central Florida 29 - 20 23 21 -
    25 Oregon 24 23 - 22 - 24

    Others receiving votes:
    Rank Team Total Points Athlon Street and Smith Lindy Arena Fanatic Phil Steele
    26 South Carolina 23 - 24 24 22 -
    27 Arizona 15 - - - 16 -
    28 Louisiana State 14 - 17 - - -
    29 N.C. State 13 - - - 18 -
    30 Utah 9 - - - - 22
    31t Boston College 8 - - - - 23
    31t Florida Atlantic 8 - - - 23 -
    33t Arkansas State 6 - - - - 25
    33t Georgia Tech 6 - - 25 - -
    33t Kansas State 6 - 25 - - -
    33t Texas A&M 6 25 - - - -
  2. mulegator

    mulegator Neanderthal Ninja Vigilante Moderator VIP Member

    Jun 25, 2007
    SEC Power Poll - ESPN

    1. Alabama
    2. Georgia
    3. Auburn
    4. Mississippi State
    5. Florida
    There might not be a bigger wild card in the SEC than the Gators. The return of Dan Mullen has breathed new life into a stagnant program. There's finally hope that with Mullen's magic and the addition of Ole Miss wideout Van Jefferson, the offense might finally pull out of the ditch. But the missing link is the same it always has been: quarterback. Whether it's Feleipe Franks or Emory Jones, the position will make or break Mullen's first season back in Gainesville.

    6. South Carolina
    7. LSU
    8. Texas A&M
    9. Kentucky
    10. Missouri
    11. Ole Miss
    12. Tennessee
    13. Vanderbilt
    14. Arkansas

    SEC preseason power rankings: Bama, Georgia still 1-2

  3. mulegator

    mulegator Neanderthal Ninja Vigilante Moderator VIP Member

    Jun 25, 2007
  4. mulegator

    mulegator Neanderthal Ninja Vigilante Moderator VIP Member

    Jun 25, 2007
    • Informative Informative x 1
  5. mulegator

    mulegator Neanderthal Ninja Vigilante Moderator VIP Member

    Jun 25, 2007
    The preseason USA Today Amway Coaches Poll

    1. Alabama (13-1)

    Points: 1,621 (61 first-place votes). Previous ranking: 1. Opens: Sept. 1 vs. Louisville in Orlando (ABC, 8)

    Outlook: Coming off their fifth title in nine seasons, the Crimson Tide have more questions than usual with an unsettled quarterback situation, major losses on defense and changes at both coordinator positions. Still, this is a team full of talent, and Nick Saban knows how to navigate this type of challenge.

    TIDE RISING: Alabama in familiar spot at No. 1 in the preseason poll

    TOP 25: Outlooks for the teams in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll

    SNUBS: Five teams that should have been part of the preseason poll

    2. Clemson (12-2)

    Points: 1,547 (3). Previous ranking: 4. Opens: Sept. 1 vs. Furman

    Outlook: If defense wins championships, then the Tigers are well-positioned to make their fourth consecutive playoff appearance. Christian Wilkins heads a dominant defensive line. QB Kelly Bryant led Clemson to 12 wins in his first year as a starter, but his job status is tenuous with incoming freshman Trevor Lawrence in the mix.

    3. Ohio State (12-2)

    Points: 1,458 (1). Previous ranking: 5. This week: Sept. 1 vs. Oregon State (ABC, noon)

    Outlook: On the field, the Buckeyes have enough talent to repeat as Big Ten champions with RB J.K. Dobbins and DL Nick Bosa among their standouts. The chief concern is off the field. Head coach Urban Meyer is on leave as the school investigates his possible knowledge of alleged abuse by a former assistant.

    4. Georgia (13-2)

    Points: 1,452. Previous ranking: 2. Opens: Sept. 1 vs. Austin Peay (ESPN, 3:30)

    Outlook: The sting of losing to Alabama in overtime in the championship game will provide motivation. QB Jake Fromm looks to avoid a sophomore slump. The defense should again be one of the top units in the country. Deandre Baker and J.R. Reed lead the secondary.

    5. Oklahoma (12-2)

    Points: 1,288. Previous ranking: 3. Opens: Sept. 1 vs. Florida Atlantic (Fox, noon)

    Outlook: Replacing Heisman winner Baker Mayfield isn’t the team’s biggest concern. Kyler Murray should be fine at QB with RB Rodney Anderson and a talented group of wide receivers as support. The defense, last seen being torched by Georgia in the Rose Bowl, has to improve.

    6. Washington (10-3)

    Points: 1,245. Previous ranking: 15. Opens: Sept 1 vs. No. 10 Auburn in Atlanta (ABC, 3:30)

    Outlook: The Huskies have QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin returning to its offense as they bid to reach the playoff for the second time in three seasons. The season opener against Auburn should tell a lot about whether they’re a contender or just the best team in the Pac-12.

    7. Wisconsin (13-1)

    Points: 1,243. Previous ranking: 6. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Western Kentucky (ESPN, 9)

    Outlook: Known more for being vanilla on offense and stingy on defense, the Badgers may flip the script this season. Backed by one of the nation’s top offensive lines and RB Jonathan Taylor, they should be explosive. Another unbeaten regular season is possible if the defense can overcome some key losses.

    8. Miami (Fla.) (10-3)

    Points: 1,091. Previous ranking: 13. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. No. 24 LSU in Arlington, Texas (ABC, 7:30)

    Outlook: The Hurricanes had a dream start last season with 10 consecutive wins before ending with a thud. LB Shaq Quarterman is part of an athletic defense that should be improved. The question is if the offense can do its part. Better play from QB Malik Rosier is pivotal.

    9. Penn State (11-2)

    Points: 1,050. Previous ranking: 8. Opens: Sept. 1 vs. Appalachian State (BTN, 3:30)

    Outlook: Gone are RB Saquon Barkley and three of the top four receivers. That’s the bad news. QB Trace McSorley and a veteran offensive line provide optimism that the Nittany Lions still will be good enough to make a run at the Big Ten title and possibly a College Football Playoff berth.

    10. Auburn (10-4)

    Points: 1,004. Previous ranking: 12. Opens: Sept. 1 vs. No. 6 Washington in Atlanta (ABC, 3:30)

    Outlook: The only team to beat Alabama last year, the Tigers start this season focused on repeating as SEC West champs. QB Jarrett Stidham looks to be more comfortable in his second season as the starter. The success of the season likely comes down to November trips to Georgia and Alabama.

    11. Notre Dame (10-3)

    Points: 892. Previous ranking: 11. Opens: Sept. 1 vs. No. 14 Michigan (NBC, 7:30).

    Outlook: With some key losses on the offensive line, the success of the Irish likely will fall to whether QB Brandon Wimbush can be more consistent throwing the ball. The defense will be better, but a tough schedule, starting with Michigan, will be difficult to manage without support from the offense.

    12. Michigan State (10-3)

    Points: 870. Previous ranking: 16. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Utah State (BTN, 7)

    Outlook: After missing a bowl game in 2016, the Spartans have 19 starters back from last year’s team that won 10 games. QB Brian Lewerke provides a running and passing threat. The defense, led by DL Kenny Willekes, is good enough to have them contend in the Big Ten.

    13. Stanford (9-5)

    Points: 768. Previous ranking: 19. Opens: Aug. 31 vs. San Diego State (FS1, 9)

    Outlook: RB Bryce Love decided to skip the NFL draft, giving the Cardinal one of the top weapons in college football. QB K.J. Costello, who welcomes back his top four receivers, has to do his part to take some pressure off Love. The defense was down a notch last year and is expected to be better.

    14. Michigan (8-5)

    Points: 752. Previous ranking: not ranked. Opens: Sept. 1 at No. 11 Notre Dame (NBC, 7:30)

    Outlook: The pressure is officially on Jim Harbaugh, who is 1-5 against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State in his three seasons. Shea Patterson, a transfer from Mississippi, is expected solve the team’s problems at quarterback. The defense was inexperienced last year and still ranked second in the Big Ten. That’s a good sign for this season.

    15. Southern California (11-3)

    Points: 691. Previous ranking: 10. Opens: Sept. 1 vs. UNLV (Pac-12, 4)

    Outlook: It likely will be the defense, led by DL Christian Rector and LB Cameron Smith, that becomes the strength of the Trojans after the departure of QB Sam Darnold. With no significant experience at the position, true freshman J.T. Daniels could win the starting job which could mean some early growing pains.

    16. TCU (11-3)

    Points: 530. Previous ranking: 9. Opens: Sept. 1 vs. Southern

    Outlook: This should be another overachieving season for the Horned Frogs. Again, defense will be the team’s backbone. DL Ben Banogu is a dominant pass rusher, and LB Ty Summers patrols the middle. QB Shawn Robinson is young, but he will have two outstanding receivers in KaVontae Turpin and Jalen Reagor.

    17. Virginia Tech (9-4)

    Points: 524. Previous ranking: 25. This week: Sept. 3 at No. 19 Florida State (ESPN, 8)

    Outlook: QB Josh Jackson looks to blossom in his second season as the starter, especially if a No. 1 option steps up at wide receiver. The defense, always good under coordinator Bud Foster, will have DL Ricky Walker up front. There are major holes to fill in the secondary with several significant departures.

    18. Mississippi State (9-4)

    Points: 407. Previous ranking: 20. Opens: Sept. 1 vs. Stephen F. Austin (ESPNU, 7:30)

    Outlook: New coach Joe Moorhead is blessed with one of the most-talented rosters in the SEC. QB Nick Fitzgerald appears to be a perfect fit in former Penn State coordinator’s offense. DL Jeffrey Simmons is one of the conference’s top defenders.

    19. Florida State (7-6)

    Points: 328. Previous ranking: not ranked. Opens: Sept. 3 vs. No. 17 Virginia Tech (ESPN, 8)

    Outlook: Willie Taggart’s first big decision as Seminoles coach will picking between Deondre Francois and James Blackman at quarterback. RB Cam Akers is set for a breakout season as a sophomore. The defense is young and talented. It will need to grow up fast.

    20. West Virginia (7-6)

    Points: 310. Previous ranking: not ranked. Opens: Sept. 1 vs. Tennessee in Charlotte (CBS, 3:30)

    Outlook: The Mountaineers should be one of the more entertaining teams in the country with QB Will Grier throwing and wideouts David Sills V and Gary Jennings catching. LB David Long and DB Dravon Askew-Henry provide two leaders in the back seven of the defense.

    21. Texas (7-6)

    Points: 265. Previous ranking: not ranked. Opens: Sept. 1 at Maryland (FS1, noon)

    Outlook: After leading the program to its first winning season since 2013, Tom Herman is looking to make the next step toward having the Longhorns back among the elite. Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele likely will share time at quarterback. Improved play at running back and the offensive line is essential.

    22. Boise State (11-3)

    Points: 261. Previous ranking: 22. Opens: Sept. 1 at Troy (ESPNews, 6)

    Outlook: The Broncos are blessed with senior QB Brett Rypien, a deep backfield, options at wide receiver and depth on both lines. They’ll make another run at the Group of Five berth in one of the major bowls.

    23. Central Florida (13-0)

    Points: 259. Previous ranking: 7. Opens: Aug. 30 at Connecticut (ESPNU, 7)

    Outlook: Under new head coach Josh Heupel, the Knights are primed for another successful season after being the lone unbeaten in FBS in 2017. QB McKenzie Milton will head a prolific offense. How quickly the defense develops will determine if UCF can avoid a loss.

    24. LSU (9-4)

    Points: 254. Previous ranking: 18. Opens: Sept. 2 vs. No. 8 Miami (Fla.) in Arlington, Texas (ABC, 7:30)

    Outlook: Ed Orgeron changed offensive coordinators and brought in Ohio State QB transfer Joe Burrow to help remedy the program’s difficulty throwing the ball. Those changes must to be successful as expectations for the Tigers are to contend in the SEC West, which it has not won since 2011.

    25. Oklahoma State (10-3)

    Points: 168. Previous ranking: 14. Opens: Aug. 30 vs. Missouri State (FS1, 8)

    Outlook: The Cowboys mostly lived on the arm of QB Mason Rudolph last year, but with his departure RB Justice Hill should carry the load of the offense. Most of the key contributors return on defense. DL Jordan Brailford has the potential to break out after six sacks last year.

    DL Jordan Brailford has the potential to break out after six sacks last year.

    Dropped out:
    No. 17 Northwestern (10-3), No. 21 South Florida (10-2), No. 23 North Carolina State (9-4), No. 24 Memphis (10-3).

    Other receiving votes:
    South Carolina (9-4) 138; Florida (4-7) 135; Oregon (7-6) 105; Utah (7-6) 81; Northwestern (10-3) 67; Texas A&M (7-6) 67; Kansas State (8-5) 35; Florida Atlantic (11-3) 27; Boston College (7-6) 23; Memphis (10-3) 23; North Carolina State (9-4) 22; Arkansas State (7-5) 19; Troy (11-2) 19; Appalachian State (9-4) 16; San Diego State (10-3) 15; Iowa (8-5) 8; Iowa State (8-5) 8; Kentucky (7-6) 8; Washington State (9-4) 7; South Florida (10-2) 6; Duke (7-6) 5; Fresno State (10-4) 4; Louisville (8-5) 3; Arizona (7-6) 2; Houston (7-5) 2; Army (10-3) 1; Northern Illinois (8-5) 1.

    The Amway Board of Coaches is made up of 65 head coaches at Bowl Subdivision schools. All are members of the American Football Coaches Association. The board for the 2018 season: Blake Anderson, Arkansas State; Major Applewhite, Houston; Dino Babers, Syracuse; Mike Bloomgren, Rice; John Bonamego, Central Michigan; Terry Bowden, Akron; Jeff Brohm, Purdue; Neal Brown, Troy; Troy Calhoun, Air Force; Rod Carey, Northern Illinois; Bill Clark, Alabama-Birmingham; Dave Clawson, Wake Forest; Geoff Collins, Temple; David Cutcliffe, Duke; Mark Dantonio, Michigan State; Bob Davie, New Mexico; Butch Davis, Florida International; Dana Dimel, Texas-El Paso; DJ Durkin, Maryland; Herm Edwards, Arizona State; Luke Fickell, Cincinnati; Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M; P.J. Fleck, Minnesota; James Franklin, Penn State; Willie Fritz, Tulane; Scott Frost, Nebraska; Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech; Turner Gill, Liberty; Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State; Bryan Harsin, Boise State; Clay Helton, Southern California; Tom Herman, Texas; Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia; Mike Jinks, Bowling Green; Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech; Brad Lambert, Charlotte; Mike Leach, Washington State; Lance Leipold, Buffalo; Tim Lester, Western Michigan; Seth Littrell, North Texas; Rocky Long, San Diego State; Chad Lunsford, Georgia Southern; Mike MacIntyre, Colorado; Gus Malzahn, Auburn; Doug Martin, New Mexico State; Urban Meyer, Ohio State; Jeff Monken, Army; Dan Mullen, Florida; Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh; Ken Niumatalolo, Navy; Jay Norvell, Nevada; Barry Odom, Missouri; Ed Orgeron, LSU; Gary Patterson, TCU; Chris Petersen, Washington; Bobby Petrino, Louisville; Nick Saban, Alabama; Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State; Kirby Smart, Georgia; Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee; Charlie Strong, South Florida; Dabo Swinney, Clemson; Jeff Tedford, Fresno State; Kyle Whittingham, Utah; Everett Withers, Texas State.

    Outlooks for the Top 25 college football teams in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll

  6. shelbygt350

    shelbygt350 GC Hall of Fame

    Apr 3, 2007
    How teams are pre season ranked is flawed. Too much is based on the measurements used 30+ years ago.

    For example: returning starters. Look at Michigan in 2017, their defense had few returning starters, yet the subs from 2016 were the 4 and 5 star studs of fr class. If, for example, we looked at Uga 2017 and Eason had left preseason, they would have no starting qb returning, yet see Jake Fromm State Farm. Take Bama, what if the 2018 LT left for NFL or transferred....so no returning starter, a hole? Wrong, the back up coming in is Alex Leatherwood (see NC game when he did come in and destroyed uga defenders). Lastly, Elite camps, 12 month focus on one sport instead of 2 or 3, has caused true fr players to be much more skilled. We lost Teez and Quincy and plugged in Marco and CJ, a very slight drop off, but not a weakness.

    Second, the other factor is the W-L record from prior years. Yes prior years matter, but due to faster ability to build a team, as opposed to 30+ years ago, makes for a 3-9 team having a far greater ability and opportunity to go 10-2. True Freshman performance. 85 limit. 12 months of football prep. More cerebral game than 30+ yr ago. Physical ability of players.

    Spread of Wealth. The game has more parity. Sound crazy in light of Clemson, Bama, Osu in recent years? Yes, but think about this. If not for a busted coverage Bama with all its 4 and 5 star studs loses to Miss St last yr as well as Auburn. 10-2. UCF- see games against Merryland and Auburn. There are players developed who can play vs some supposedly far better teams. How does Iowa with a typical recruiting ranking of 30-50 blow the doors off OSU? Uga in 2017 is a classic example going from 8-5 (getting crushed by a ButterTeeth and Nucklehead run team) to one play from being NC. So I think teams can get lightning in a bottle now where say 40 yr ago the chance is far less (my opinion).

    Maybe the above is biased in my hope for a turnaround by UF in 2018, from 4-7 to 11-1.
  7. sierragator

    sierragator GC Hall of Fame

    Apr 8, 2007
    The Gators are going to have to earn respect by getting W's. It really is that simple after a 4-7 campaign and a moribund offense for most of the last decade. Mullen will get us there....
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. mulegator

    mulegator Neanderthal Ninja Vigilante Moderator VIP Member

    Jun 25, 2007
    After the newest preseason rankings came out the LSU coach responded on twitter

    Od Ergeron. @OdErgeron

    Hummanuh! Oglethorpe green bean wax figure goo pie! Kiki lamp post waggle patch! Hummanuh ensminga, canada, aranda, alleva!

    4:54 PM - Aug 1, 2018

    Od Ergeron.‏ @OdErgeron
    Jul 30
    Replying to @PeterBurnsESPN

    Hummanuh! Joobah loobah ping pong wave rocket! Lumbar towel rack slipper pale navajo celery group! @ESPNBooger & @MarkRuffalo "WOOH!" mule sweater potato spacecraft! Yee yee!

    See Od Ergeron.'s other Tweets
    • Funny Funny x 2
  9. mulegator

    mulegator Neanderthal Ninja Vigilante Moderator VIP Member

    Jun 25, 2007
    ESPN Preseason College Football Power Rankings

    1. Alabama
    The runaway favorites in the SEC, the defending champion Crimson Tide could have one of their most explosive offenses in years with tons of depth at running back and receiver, led by Damien Harris. The question is: Who plays quarterback? Whether it's Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts or some combination of the two, Nick Saban's squad should put up points. The defense, however, could be a relative work in progress with four new starters in the secondary and already a major loss at linebacker (Terrell Lewis). But don't expect anyone to feel sorry for Saban's latest collection of five-stars. -- Alex Scarborough

    2. Clemson
    Ever since Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell announced they would come to Clemson for their senior seasons, the Tigers have been a favorite to play for yet another national championship. And with good reason. The three defensive linemen team with junior tackle Dexter Lawrence to form the best defensive line in the country, a veteran unit that has embraced the high expectations and leadership on what is now a veteran team. While there is some uncertainty at quarterback, there is no doubt this position is in much better shape with Kelly Bryant back and ESPN 300 talent Trevor Lawrence onboard. Expect both to play. The depth at running back is stellar, and receiver Tee Higgins is a star in the making. If Clemson lives up to its vast potential, chances are high it will be back in the championship mix come January -- Andrea Adelson

    3. Ohio State
    The Buckeyes are once again the team to beat in the Big Ten. Nick Bosa will headline a defensive front that is once again loaded despite losing three draft picks from last year's group. A mature group of receivers and stud running back J.K. Dobbins should provide plenty of cushion for an offense replacing record-setting quarterback J.T. Barrett. September trips to TCU and Penn State don't leave expected starter Dwayne Haskins much runway to get up to full speed, but his performance against rival Michigan last November should quell any panic about his ability to be ready for a big stage. -- Dan Murphy

    4. Georgia
    The defense must replace Roquan Smith and others, but the Bulldogs' offense could take a big step forward this season. After a stellar freshman year, Jake Fromm is back at quarterback with a more experienced offensive line and weapons at running back (D'Andre Swift) and receiver (Terry Godwin). Add in QB Justin Fields, the No. 1 recruit from the 2018 class, and the Bulldogs have lots of options to help Kirby Smart in his quest to break the Nick Saban assistant curse. -- Scarborough

    5. Washington
    The heavy favorite in the Pac-12, Washington figures to be the conference's best candidate to be a part of the playoff picture. And unlike in recent years, the Huskies have a chance to make a statement in the nonconference with a marquee opener against Auburn. They'll need some receivers to emerge, but with QB Jake Browning set to begin his fourth season as the Huskies' starter, there is plenty of reason for optimism on that side to go along with a defense that has the potential to be the best in coach Chris Petersen's tenure. -- Kyle Bonagura

    6. Wisconsin
    Paul Chryst has won at least 10 games in each of his three seasons coaching his alma mater, and there's no reason to expect any less in 2018. Wisconsin's offense returns a couple of All-America candidates on the line, some promising young receivers and perhaps the country's best workhorse running back, Jonathan Taylor. More than half of last year's starting defense is gone, but the Badgers have a long track record of success with plugging in new players on that side of the ball without taking a step backward. The big question in Madison this year is if they can get over the hump and win more than the West Division. -- Murphy

    7. Oklahoma

    Outside of quarterback, the Sooners should be even better than last year on offense, with running back Rodney Anderson and wideout Marquis Brown returning to flank one of the most dominant offensive lines in the country. The defense should be better, too -- if only because it can't be any worse. Of course, the quarterback position is a pretty important one, and Kyler Murray will attempt to adequately succeed Baker Mayfield, one of the greatest players in Oklahoma's storied history. Murray might not be Mayfield, but he still has the talent to quarterback the Sooners to the CFP for the third time in four years. -- Jake Trotter

    8. Penn State
    What does Penn State look like without the architect of its explosive offense (Joe Moorhead) and once-in-a-generation running back Saquon Barkley? Probably not all that different. Quarterback Trace McSorley is back, and the Nittany Lions staff has stocked up plenty of talent on the recruiting trail. James Franklin is confident the offensive line has at last been replenished after taking a big hit due to scholarship reductions. The toughest hurdles on the way to a Big Ten title (Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin) all have to go to Happy Valley this fall. -- Murphy

    9. Miami
    Nobody in Miami is happy with the way last season ended: three straight losses to put a damper on what was the best season in more than a decade in Coral Gables. Using that as offseason motivation, Miami has its sights set on starting strong, and also finishing strong. The returning starters at linebacker and in the secondary combine to give the Hurricanes one of the best units in the ACC. It's on offense where Miami needs to show marked improvement over a unit that couldn't hit big plays with consistency last season. The offensive line remains a work in progress, and that could cause trouble Week 1 against what should be a tough LSU defense. -- Adelson

    10. Auburn
    The Tigers return a 3,000-yard passer (Jarrett Stidham) and a loaded defensive line (see: Marlon Davidson, Derrick Brown, etc.). So what's not to like? The schedule. Not only does Auburn open the season against Washington, it ends the season with road trips to Georgia and Alabama. If the Tigers can somehow survive that, they're a playoff contender. -- Scarborough

    11. Notre Dame
    The Irish host one of the biggest games of Week 1 when they renew a rivalry with Michigan in a matchup between two strong teams with big questions to answer. Will Notre Dame's defense and its athletes in the secondary continue to look sharp with new coordinator Clark Lea? Will Brandon Wimbush improve his passing game after slumping down the stretch in 2017? The pieces are in place for the first back-to-back 10-win seasons in South Bend since the Lou Holtz days if Brian Kelly can find answers to those questions in the coming month. -- Murphy

    12. Michigan
    Shea Patterson is one of four quarterbacks to transfer to Ann Arbor since Jim Harbaugh arrived four years ago. The Wolverines are optimistic he'll be a difference-maker, but sorting out the offensive line is a bigger piece of the puzzle to improving on offense this year. The defense, led by Rashan Gary and Devin Bush, is loaded with playmakers from front to back and gives Michigan a chance to win every game it plays. As running back Karan Higdon said at Big Ten media days, it's a "don't talk about it, be about it" year after three seasons of the Wolverines losing to their top rivals. -- Murphy

    13. Michigan State
    The Spartans are at their best when they field a solid defensive front and an experienced quarterback. That's what they have returning in 2018. Brian Lewerke is among the Big Ten's best quarterbacks and has a couple of talented targets in the passing game. Linebacker Joe Bachie and a pair of stout defensive tackles make the defense solid up the middle. The nightmare season of 2016 is firmly behind the Spartans, who have course-corrected to look once again like a perennial contender in the conference. -- Murphy

    14. Stanford
    The model of consistency on the West Coast for nearly a decade, there is nothing to indicate Stanford won't be a Pac-12 contender so long as David Shaw is the head coach. This year is no different, and RB Bryce Love's return gives the team arguably the most dangerous offensive threat in college football. Initially, the biggest adjustment might be the departure of offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren, who left to become the head coach at Rice and was replaced by former Stanford QB Tavita Pritchard. -- Bonagura

    15. Virginia Tech
    Nobody in the ACC had a more difficult offseason than Virginia Tech, which had to deal with off-field distractions involving a former assistant and its star quarterback, injuries and dismissals. There's no question the challenges are great for the Hokies this season, starting on defense, where Bud Foster has to replace seven starters and build depth at linebacker and in the secondary. On offense, Virginia Tech needs to identify go-to players at both receiver and running back, positions that are up for grabs this fall. That will only help quarterback Josh Jackson in his development. -- Adelson

    16. USC
    The book on USC remains the same: It has talent, but can the Trojans put it all together? And this year, it comes with a giant question mark at quarterback. Redshirt sophomore Matt Fink is the most experienced of the three players competing for the starting job and has attempted a grand total of nine passes at the college level. That's why the widely held assumption is that immensely talented true freshman J.T. Daniels, who would have been eligible to play high school football in 2018, has a good chance to win the job. -- Bonagura

    17. Mississippi State
    Joe Moorhead might have the best season of any first-year coach in the SEC, including the man he's replacing, new Florida coach Dan Mullen. Not only does he inherit a dark-horse Heisman Trophy contender in quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, he gets a stacked defensive line with Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat. -- Scarborough

    18. Florida State
    Last season, the Seminoles had the type of year nobody ever expects in Tallahassee. This year should show major growth, considering the talent returning and the new schemes on offense and defense. Though they haven't settled on a starting quarterback yet, James Blackman and Deondre Francois give Florida State depth at quarterback for the first time in years. Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick form a terrific 1-2 combo in the backfield. Defensively, Brian Burns and Demarcus Christmas are in line for big years. Florida State still needs its receivers, offensive line and linebackers to take the next step, and its schedule is difficult. But the Seminoles will be better. -- Adelson

    19. Boise State
    Though Central Florida and Florida Atlantic generate more headlines, the top Group of 5 team in the country this season just might be Boise State. The Broncos return 10 starters defensively and filled the one hole vacated by first-round draft pick Leighton Vander Esch with graduate transfer Tony Lashley, who was All-Sun Belt for Idaho last year. Offensively, quarterback Brett Rypien has 36 career starts. If Rypien & Co. can knock off Oklahoma State (Sept. 15), they'll be on their way to becoming the ones who represent the Group of 5 in the New Year's Six. -- Trotter

    20. West Virginia
    Good luck finding a more lethal offensive skill contingent than West Virginia's. Quarterback Will Grier has the goods to lead the country in passing, with one of the top receiving corps in the country at his disposal, spearheaded by Biletnikoff finalist David Sills V and Big 12 receptions champ Gary Jennings. A three-headed rotation at running back, led by Kennedy McKoy, and a pair of high-profile transfers in receiver T.J. Simmons (Alabama) and tight end Jovani Haskins (Miami) round out the attack. If the Mountaineers get enough defense -- and that's a big "if" -- they could challenge Oklahoma for Big 12 supremacy. -- Trotter

    21. TCU
    Under defensive-minded coach Gary Patterson, TCU has bucked the trend in the Big 12, consistently featuring hard-nosed defenses in an offense-first league. This season should be no different. Headlined by preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Ben Banogu and reigning Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Ross Blacklock, the Horned Frogs are loaded along the defensive line. That should give the offense some cover as it gels around new quarterback Shawn Robinson and a completely revamped offensive line. -- Trotter

    22. Texas
    The last time Texas was relevant nationally was 2009, when Heisman finalist Colt McCoy was behind center. The Longhorns' path back to relevancy hinges on what happens at quarterback, more specifically promising sophomore Sam Ehlinger. The native of Austin, Texas, had an up-and-down season as a true freshman, defined by spectacular big-game moments, yet also catastrophic, loss-clinching turnovers and head injuries. Assuming he wins the job over Shane Buechele, Ehlinger will have more help around him, especially on the offensive line. If he can finally give the elite quarterback the program has so desperately longed for, it won't be long before Texas truly is back. -- Trotter

    23. Oregon
    Junior quarterback Justin Herbert is a future pro, and how he goes, so do the Ducks. They took an encouraging step last year under coach Willie Taggart, but after he left to take the Florida State job, it's up to Mario Cristobal to build off that progress. Outside of Herbert's health, continued improvement on the defensive side figures to be the key in Oregon's ascension. -- Bonagura

    24. UCF
    Nobody really knows what to expect from coach Josh Heupel as he takes over from Scott Frost. But the offense should be ready to pick up where it left off last season behind quarterback McKenzie Milton, whom the school is already touting for the Heisman Trophy. Though leading receiver Tre'Quan Smith is gone, UCF has plenty of athletes across the board at the skill positions to make up for his departure. The bigger question is how the Knights go about replacing Shaquem Griffin, not only their best player on defense, but the heart and soul of the entire team. It's never easy replacing such a natural, gifted leader, especially one with the ability to turn a game's momentum at any time. -- Adelson

    25. South Carolina
    The Gamecocks, not the Gators, could become the No. 1 challenger to Georgia in the SEC's East Division. Jake Bentley is back at quarterback, along with one of the best tandems of receivers in the conference, Bryan Edwards and Deebo Samuel. If the offensive and defensive lines can hold up, Will Muschamp's squad could make some noise. -- Scarborough

    Also receiving votes:
    LSU, Utah, Texas A&M, Florida, Oklahoma State, Boston College, Northwestern, Missouri, Florida Atlantic

    Andrea Adelson, Joel Anderson, Edward Aschoff, Heather Dinich, Brad Edwards, Chris Fallica, Paul Finebaum, Chris Low, Ryan McGee, Adam Rittenberg, Marty Smith, Marcus Spears, Mark Schlabach, Maria Taylor, Seth Walder.

    College football power rankings: Bama-Clemson, Round IV?

  10. mulegator

    mulegator Neanderthal Ninja Vigilante Moderator VIP Member

    Jun 25, 2007
    CBS Sports Preseason Top 25

    9 SEC teams in their top 35

    College football experts from CBS Sports and 247Sports contribute ballots each week, which are averaged together for our rankings. You can see the top 25 below and teams ranked 26-129 by clicking here.

    Rank Team 2017-18 Record 2017-18 Finish
    1 Alabama 13-1 1
    2 Clemson 12-2 5
    3 Georgia 13-2 2
    4 Ohio State 12-2 6
    5 Wisconsin 13-1 7
    6 Washington 10-3 15
    7 Oklahoma 12-2 3
    8 Penn State 11-2 8
    9 Auburn 10-4 10
    10 Michigan State 10-3 17
    11 Miami 10-3 12
    12 Notre Dame 10-3 13
    13 Michigan 8-5 34
    14 Stanford 9-5 16
    15 TCU 11-3 9
    16 Mississippi State 9-4 21
    17 USC 11-3 11
    18 Florida State 7-6 54
    19 Texas 7-6 40
    20 West Virginia 7-6 44
    21 Boise State 11-3 24
    22 South Carolina 9-4 28
    23 UCF 13-0 4
    24 Oregon 7-6 41
    25 Florida 4-7 79

    New arrivals to the top 25
    • No. 13 Michigan (up 21 spots): The Wolverines have enough talent throughout the program to start every year in the top 20 of the rankings. It's where they finish the year that is of concern to Michigan fans heading into 2018.
    • No. 18 Florida State (up 36 spots): A quick correction from our experts after confidence in the Seminoles faded throughout the season in 2017.
    • No. 19 Texas (up 21 spots): Our team appears pretty bullish on the Big 12 in general with TCU, Texas and West Virginia all joining Oklahoma in the top 20. The Longhorns were a top 40 team a year ago that played like a top 10 team at times, and the thinking here seems to be that the next step is coming for Tom Herman and the Longhorns.
    • No. 20 West Virginia (up 24 spots): A healthy Will Grier puts West Virginia back in the mix to challenge Oklahoma for the Big 12 title.
    • No. 22 South Carolina (up six spots): Any early movement in the rankings for the Gamecocks will be determined early by a Week 2 meeting with Georgia.
    • No. 24 Oregon (up 17 spots): Like West Virginia, Oregon gets a boost from having its proven starting quarterback healthy again. The Ducks could be dangerous with Justin Herbert in 2018.
    • No. 25 Florida (up 54 spots): Jim McElwain's midseason dismissal and the Gators' late-season struggles had Florida's ranking on a week-by-week slide well outside the top 25. With Dan Mullen in place and several key offensive weapons back, things have been on the up for Florida since our last balloting for the CBS 129.
    Teams moving out:
    Oklahoma State, Northwestern, Memphis, South Florida, LSU, Virginia Tech, FAU

    CBS Sports 129: Alabama opens 2018 college football rankings at No. 1 for third straight year

  11. eastowest

    eastowest GC Hall of Fame

    May 13, 2007
    Vols-74th :eek:
    • Informative Informative x 1
  12. mulegator

    mulegator Neanderthal Ninja Vigilante Moderator VIP Member

    Jun 25, 2007
    Plus we are playing Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams Charleston Southern and Idaho this year. Idaho just moved down from FBS to FCS.
    We still play four teams in the top 25 this season.
    Usually it's about 6.
    This is the first year in like -- forever -- that FSU can honestly say they are playing a tougher schedule than Florida.
  13. eastowest

    eastowest GC Hall of Fame

    May 13, 2007
    I like our schedule this year....
    Next year we pick up Miami and Auburn.
  14. AUTigerGrad

    AUTigerGrad GC Hall of Fame

    Apr 8, 2007
    Atlanta, Georgia
    It feels like an eternity since we played yall.

    2011? Was that the last Auburn Florida game?

    This new divisional rotation sucks.
    • Like Like x 1
  15. cedarkey_gator1

    cedarkey_gator1 GC Hall of Fame

    Apr 12, 2007
    I think Florida will end the season in the top twenty, anything over that would be quite an accomplishment.
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • Friendly Friendly x 1
  16. sierragator

    sierragator GC Hall of Fame

    Apr 8, 2007
    yet we will never hear the end of it.... we could play 12 nfl teams and our rivals would still bash our schedule. Screw em and play some football......
    • Friendly Friendly x 1
  17. mulegator

    mulegator Neanderthal Ninja Vigilante Moderator VIP Member

    Jun 25, 2007
    O I agree Plain Eagle Tiger man.
    I'm in favor of a two team per year interdivisional schedule with no permanent cross-division opponent in the SEC.
    The current arrangement is unbalanced and unfair -- to everybody.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. mulegator

    mulegator Neanderthal Ninja Vigilante Moderator VIP Member

    Jun 25, 2007
    Sport Illustrated Preseason Top 25

    1. Clemson Tigers

    Last year: 12–2 (7–1 ACC); Lost to Alabama in College Football Playoff semifinal

    SI Top 100 players: Nine: DL Christian Wilkins (No. 3), DE Clelin Ferrell (No. 7), DT Dexter Lawrence (No. 10), DE Austin Bryant (No. 32), OL Mitch Hyatt (No. 37), LB Kendall Joseph (No. 57), CB Trayvon Mullen (No. 63), WR Tee Higgins (No. 69), RB Travis Etienne (No. 94)

    X-Factor: With nearly every other piece in place to contend for a national title, the choice of quarterback may determine whether Clemson reaches its goal. Like Alabama last year, the Tigers have an accomplished incumbent starter (Kelly Bryant) and a freshman generating buzz (Trevor Lawrence). The Crimson Tide didn’t make a QB switch until halftime of the national championship—and then it made all the difference. Lawrence throws a better deep ball; Bryant has earned loyalty after going 12–2 last year. Dabo Swinney has said the job is Bryant’s but has left the door open for Lawrence. Don’t be shocked if it’s still ajar well into September. — Andy Staples

    2. Alabama Crimson Tide
    Last year: 13–1 (7–1 SEC); Beat Georgia in College Football Playoff national championship

    SI Top 100 players: Seven: OL Jonah Williams (No. 12), LB Mack Wilson (No. 19), DE Raekwon Davis (No. 28), LB Dylan Moses (No. 51), RB Damien Harris (No. 70), QB Tua Tagovailoa (No. 84), DE Isaiah Buggs (No. 91)

    X-Factor: The hero of last year’s national championship game returns. So, too, does the QB with the 27–2 career record. And so the stage is set for a QB showdown between sophomore Tua Tagovailoa and junior Jalen Hurts that promises to rage on during the season. Tagovailoa flashed a mighty left arm in the national championship, but Hurts, who has rushed for 1,809 yards over the last two seasons, gives the offense a different dimension with his legs. The competition has provided more drama than Nick Saban prefers, but there’s a good reason he had yet to anoint one the starter and allowed the other to transfer: Having both makes his Tide a better team. — Ross Dellenger

    3. Wisconsin Badgers
    Last year: 13–1 (9–0 Big Ten); Beat Miami in Orange Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: Five: RB Jonathan Taylor (No. 6), OL David Edwards (No. 42), OL Michael Dieter (No. 52), OL Beau Benzschawel (No. 74), LB TJ Edwards (No. 95)

    X-Factor: On April 19, Wisconsin tweeted a video from spring practice of receiver Quintez Cephus leaping in the back of the end zone and plucking an Alex Hornibrook spiral with his left hand. The reaction from the thousands of viewers: Wooooooaaaaaaah! Everyone knows Jonathan Taylor can run (1,977 yards as a freshman), but the Badgers’ offense will be formidable if the receivers can stretch the field. Most important is Cephus (16.7 yards a catch in 2017), who is back after a right-leg injury ended his season last November. With the departure of last year’s leader in catches and receiving yards, TE Troy Fumagalli, it’s time for the wideouts like Cephus to rise to the occasion. — Andy Staples

    4. Washington Huskies
    Last year: 10–3 (7–2 Pac-12); Lost to Penn State in Fiesta Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: Six: OL Trey Adams (No. 20), CB Byron Murphy (No. 23), DT Greg Gaines (No. 27), S Taylor Rapp (No. 55), RB Myles Gaskin (No. 58), QB Jake Browning (No. 92)

    X-Factor: For three straight seasons, Washington has led the Pac-12 in allowing the fewest total yards and points. The key to the D will once again be the secondary, which allowed only 10 TDs and has all five starters back. As hard as it is to imagine, it’s possible that the unit will be even better. Cornerback Byron Murphy missed seven games with a broken foot last year, but in the six games he played he had three picks. He is at 100%, as is safety Taylor Rapp, who finished third on the team with 59 tackles, despite being slowed by injuries. Rapp and safety JoJo McIntosh give the Huskies the most intimidating safety duo in the conference—if not the country. — Ross Dellenger

    5. Oklahoma Sooners
    Last year: 12–2 (8–1 Big 12); Lost to Georgia in College Football Playoff semifinal

    SI Top 100 players: One: RB Rodney Anderson (No. 30)

    X-Factor: With Baker Mayfield gone, junior Amani Bledsoe might be the one to keep the Sooners’ streak of straight Big 12 titles alive. That’s fine with the 6'5", 287-pound defensive end, who can’t wait to play a full season. During his redshirt freshman year in 2016, Bledsoe tested positive for a banned substance and was suspended for a year by the NCAA. (He is suing to regain that year of eligibility.) After missing the final seven games of ’16 and the first four of last season, Bledsoe made 19 tackles and had two sacks in 10 games. In OU’s 3–4 defense, he will face double teams constantly, but he should still be able to disrupt opposing running games and pressure the quarterback. — Andy Staples

    6. Georgia Bulldogs
    Last year: 13–2 (7–1 SEC); Lost to Alabama in College Football Playoff national championship

    SI Top 100 players: Five: CB Deandre Baker (No. 46), QB Jake Fromm (No. 65), OL Andrew Thomas (No. 68), DE Jonathan Ledbetter (No. 73), K Rodrigo Blankenship (No. 100)

    X-Factor: While Kirby Smart has built stout defenses in Athens similar to the ones he coordinated at Alabama, he’ll have to be really creative to make up for the departure of six starters, including Butkus Award winner Roquan Smith. Inside linebacker Natrez Patrick, defensive back Richard LeCounte and end Jay Hayes, a Notre Dame transfer, will be the backbone of the unit, but no player will be more important—and has more upside—than Julian Rochester, a defensive lineman who was a top recruit in the 2016 class but has yet to make a dramatic impact. At 6'5" and 300 pounds, Rochester has the ability to strengthen the unit—and Georgia will need him to do so. — Ross Dellenger

    7. Penn State Nittany Lions
    Last year: 11–2 (7–2 Big Ten); Beat Washington in Fiesta Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: One: QB Trace McSorley (No. 15)

    X-Factor: The Penn State offense will have a new look to it this season, and not just because Saquon Barkley is gone. Ricky Rahne takes over as offensive coordinator and promises to give more play-calling responsibility to senior QB Trace McSorley. But Rahne’s favorite toy this season could be backup QB Tommy Stevens, a dual threat who surprisingly decided to sit behind McSorley for one more year rather than transfer and start elsewhere. Rahne could use Stevens as a Wildcat QB in the red zone or even line him up as a receiver. With McSorley a Heisman candidate this season and Stevens locked in for 2019, the Nittany Lions’ attack is in good hands. — Andy Staples

    8. Auburn Tigers
    Last year: 10–4 (7–1 SEC); Lost to UCF in Peach Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: Two: QB Jarrett Stidham (No. 83), DE Derrick Brown (No. 86)

    X-Factor: There’s no more talk of a hot seat with coach Gus Malzahn’s having signed a seven-year, $49 million extension after finishing first in the SEC West last year. But even with the security of a new deal and 14 starters back, Malzahn faces one of his most challenging seasons. The reason? A brutal schedule that ranks as the fourth-toughest in all of college football. Auburn opens with Pac-12 power Washington and in November faces both participants from last year’s national championship, on the road, over 14 days. The Tigers have the talent to contend for a championship—but they don’t have much margin for error. — Ross Dellenger

    9. Ohio State Buckeyes
    Last year: 12–2 (8–1 Big Ten); Beat USC in Cotton Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: Four: DE Nick Bosa (No. 5), RB JK Dobbins (No. 26), DE Dre'Mont Jones (No. 40), DE Chase Young (No. 44)

    X-Factor: After four years of (mostly) J.T. Barrett at quarterback, Ohio State is set for a change. Dwayne Haskins, a 6'3" redshirt sophomore, has a big arm and has shown that he’s mobile as well. In eight games last season, he passed for 565 yards, completing 70.2% of his passes, throwing four TDs and just one interception. Haskins, who won the job after junior Joe Burrow transferred to LSU in the spring, will take over an offense with plenty of other weapons on the ground, so it’s hard to imagine the Buckeyes will rely on their QB to run the ball. If Haskins is allowed to be a pocket passer, the offense will be even scarier than it was with Barrett. — Joan Niesen

    10. West Virginia Mountaineers
    Last year: 7–6 (5–4 Big 12); Lost to Utah in Heart of Dallas Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: Three: QB Will Grier (No. 22), LB David Long (No. 24), WR David Sills V (No. 38)

    X-Factor: In any conference, defenses that can’t hold the line of scrimmage get gashed by the run. In the Big 12 especially, ones that can’t pressure get torched by air. Combine both shortcomings and you have the 2017 West Virginia defense, which allowed 6.1 yards a play (98th in the nation). WVU must be better up front—and they will be. After transferring from East Mississippi Community College, end Ezekiel Rose led the team in sacks, though it took him most of the season to break through. In May, Jabril Robinson came to Morgantown because of a logjam at Clemson, and five-star recruit Kenny Bigelow Jr. arrived from USC. The Mountaineers’ D could surprise. — Andy Staples

    11. Michigan State Spartans
    Last year: 10–3 (7–2 Big Ten); Beat Washington State in Holiday Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: One: RB L.J. Scott (No. 87)

    X-Factor: During Mark Dantonio’s tenure, Michigan State has sent QBs Brian Hoyer, Kirk Cousins, Connor Cook and Drew Stanton to the NFL. The next Spartans signal-caller poised for the pros is Brian Lewerke, who’s as talented as any of his predecessors. He took over the starting job and led the team to a seven-win improvement from 2016. Lewerke, who passed for 2,793 yards and 20 TDs, flashed a big arm and had surprising success on the ground: He rushed for 559 yards, giving Dantonio a dual threat at the position that he’s never had. Lewerke needs to become more efficient in the air, but if he puts it all together, the Spartans could be the team to beat in the Big Ten. — Ross Dellenger

    15. Michigan Wolverines
    Last year: 8–5 (5–4 Big Ten); Lost to South Carolina in Outback Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: Six: DT Rashan Gary (No. 9), LB Devin Bush (No. 25), DE Chase Winovich (No. 56), LB Khaleke Hudson (No. 62), CB Lavert Hill (No. 78), QB Shea Patterson (No. 80)

    X-Factor: Officially, the Wolverines have no offensive coordinator, but they do have three coaches with a combined 25 years of experience as offensive coordinators at the college and NFL levels. After Tim Drevno left for USC, coach Jim Harbaugh brought in Ed Warinner (from Ohio State and Minnesota) to coach the line and Jim McElwain (from Florida) to lead the receivers. Pep Hamilton is the pass-game coordinator, in charge of QBs. The starter will be Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson. Last year’s NFL-style offense, populated with inexperienced players, ranked 91st in scoring. The offense will have a different look, but will it translate to better results? — Joan Niesen

    16. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
    Last year: 10–3; Beat LSU in Citrus Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: Two: LB Te'Von Coney (No. 43), DT Jerry Tillery (No. 60)

    X-Factor: Last season running back Josh Adams rushed for 1,430 yards. Well, Adams is now with the Eagles, and replacing his yards won’t be easy; the Irish also lost two starters on the offensive line. Enter Dexter Williams, Adams’s heir apparent (especially after two other backs were kicked off the team during the offseason for violating team rules). The senior has seen limited action due to injuries, but when healthy, he’s been electric. As a backup in 2017, he averaged 9.2 yards per carry on 39 attempts over 10 games. With QB Brandon Wimbush’s accuracy a question, Notre Dame needs consistency at running back, and Williams can provide it. — Joan Niesen

    17. UCF Knights
    Last year: 13–0 (8–0 AAC); Beat Auburn in Peach Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: One: QB McKenzie Milton (No. 13)

    X-Factor: In 2016, Scott Frost took over a UCF program that had just gone 0–12. Two seasons later he left a program that had just gone 13–0. Needless to say, Frost’s replacement, 40-year-old Josh Heupel, will face a different set of challenges. “It’s like my wife said: All you’ve got to do is win 14,” Heupel jokes. The rookie coach has this in his favor: his time at Oklahoma, both as a quarterback and as an assistant for nine years, gives him a solid introduction to sky-high expectations. And there’s McKenzie Milton, as talented as the best signal-callers Heupel worked with in Norman. (See Bradford, Sam; Jones, Landry.) UCF is in good hands with Heupel leading the way. — Andy Staples

    18. Florida State Seminoles
    Last year: 7–6 (3–5 ACC); Beat Southern Miss in Independence Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: Two: CB Levonta Taylor (No. 29), RB Cam Akers (No. 36)

    X-Factor: The scheme Willie Taggart is bringing from Oregon to Florida State—he calls it “lethal simplicity”—will be a huge boon to running back Cam Akers, who broke Dalvin Cook’s school mark for rushing yards by a freshman last season (1,025 yards) despite playing in the most dysfunctional offense of Jimbo Fisher’s tenure. When Taggart was hired, the 5'11", 213-pound Akers watched video of the Ducks’ Royce Freeman, a second-round pick of the Broncos, and got excited. “A lot more open field to work with,” says Akers, who is smaller than Freeman but the same size as former South Florida RB Marlon Mack. In Mack’s final year under Taggart, he ran for 1,187 yards. — Andy Staples

    19. Arizona Wildcats
    Last year: 7–6 (5–4 Pac-12); Lost to Purdue in Foster Farms Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: One: QB Khalil Tate (No. 4)

    X-Factor: In 2012 and ’13, Kevin Sumlin revitalized Texas A&M with Johnny Manziel running the offense, but without Manziel the Aggies floundered, and Sumlin was fired last fall. Now, with junior Khalil Tate at QB, Sumlin has one of the nation’s most electric offenses, but he’ll need a lot more than highlight-reel moments to succeed. In the SEC, Sumlin struggled partly because A&M couldn’t stop the run; in Tucson he inherits a young D that finished 10th in the Pac-12 and ninth in rushing yardage. Most important, the 54-year-old will have to revitalize the Wildcats’ recruiting—his predecessor of six seasons, Rich Rodriguez, failed to bring in elite talent outside of Tate. — Ross Dellenger

    20. Houston Cougars
    Last year: 7–5 (5–3 AAC); Lost to Fresno State in Hawai'i Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: One: DT Ed Oliver (No. 1)

    X-Factor: D’Eriq King bounced between receiver and quarterback until last season, when he took over for QB Kyle Postma at South Florida and led Houston to a win. In his four starts as a sophomore King completed 65.8% of his passes and averaged 9.4 yards per attempt while rushing for eight TDs. He looked like a faster version of Greg Ward Jr., the former Cougars QB whom King revered as a teen at Manvel (Texas) High. King spent the offseason learning new coordinator Kendal Briles’s scheme, which doesn’t require that the QB be a great runner ... but if he is it’s tough to stop. The last QB as athletic as King to lead an offense—Baylor’s Robert Griffin III—won the Heisman. — Andy Staples

    21. Mississippi State Bulldogs
    Last year: 9–4 (4–4 SEC); Beat Louisville in Taxslayer Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: Two: QB Nick Fitzgerald (No. 41), DE Jeffery Simmons (No. 77)

    X-Factor: With plenty of continuity on both sides of the ball in 2018, what most needs to go right this fall is on the sidelines after the Bulldogs’ first coaching change since 2009. Joe Moorhead, who came to Starkville after two seasons as Penn State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, has been known as the architect of dramatic offensive improvement at his previous schools. Bulldogs fans are hoping this stop will mirror his last, where he built a just-fine Nittany Lions offense into one of the country’s best. Moorhead will call his own plays, and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is healthy after a grisly ankle injury ended his season on Thanksgiving night; the hope is that under his new coach, Fitzgerald can become steadier in the passing game. — Joan Niesen

    22. Texas Longhorns
    Last year: 7–6 (5–4 Big 12); Beat Missouri in Texas Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: Two: WR Collin Johnson (No. 64), WR Lil'Jordan Humphrey (No. 81)

    X-Factor: Much has been made of second-year coach Tom Herman’s ability to revive the offense after several down years under Charlie Strong, but a year ago, Texas got by on the strength of coordinator Todd Orlando’s defense while the offense tried to find a rhythm. Things appear to be more settled at QB this year—Sam Ehlinger looks like the guy—but the Longhorns will need to maintain their defensive production after losing several standouts to the draft. Enter defensive end Breckyn Hager, who will be tasked with replacing the playmaking ability of last season’s Big 12 Defensive Lineman Of the Year Poona Ford. If Hager—a 6'4", 245-pound junior with blonde hair that cascades past his shoulders—breaks out, a defense that lost several key pieces should not lose a step. — Joan Niesen

    23. LSU Tigers
    Last year: 9–4 (6–2 SEC); Lost to Notre Dame in Citrus Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: Two: CB Greedy Williams (No. 11), LB Devin White (No. 75)

    X-Factor: LSU finds itself in unfamiliar territory: None of its returning backs rushed for a touchdown in 2017. After four years of Leonard Fournette and then Derrius Guice, the Tigers have been spoiled by dominant running back talent. (The last time an LSU team didn’t have an 1,000-yard rusher was 2012.) Now, the load appears to fall onto sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire and senior Nick Brossette, who combined for 28 rushes for 127 yards a year ago. The duo could form an impressive tandem to support grad transfer QB Joe Burrow. — Joan Niesen

    24. NC State Wolfpack
    Last year: 9–4 (6–2 ACC); Beat Arizona State in Sun Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: None

    X-Factor: NC State lost all four of its starting defensive linemen to the NFL draft, so head coach Dave Doeren had some rebuilding to do up front. Enter senior end Darian Roseboro, who is set to lead a unit that will have to hold its own for the Wolfpack to be a threat in the ACC Atlantic. Over the course of his three-year career, Roseboro has logged 76 tackles and 13.5 sacks playing in the shadow of several future pros. The question now is whether he can produce at that clip with increased reps and set the tone for a defense that is replacing eight starters from a year ago. — Joan Niesen

    25. Florida Atlantic Owls
    Last year: 11–3 (8–0 Conference USA); Beat Akron in Boca Raton Bowl

    SI Top 100 players: Two: RB Devin Singletary (No. 35), LB Azeez Al-Shaair (No. 79)

    X-Factor: Beyond Singletary, the nation’s leader in touchdowns a year ago, the outlook for the Owls’ electric offense is murky after coordinator Kendal Briles left for Houston. It’s especially unclear who will take the reins at quarterback, and the process of answering that question might spill into the season. Lane Kiffin’s primary options, De’Andre Johnson and Chris Robison, each have their strengths and drawbacks: Johnson, a junior, saw his season end early a year ago due to blood clots in his arm, and Robison, a redshirt freshman, was originally a top recruit at Oklahoma before being kicked off the team before his college career even started. Neither has started a game; both can run and have struggled with accuracy. — Joan Niesen

    SI's Preseason Top 25: Clemson claims the top spot

  19. mulegator

    mulegator Neanderthal Ninja Vigilante Moderator VIP Member

    Jun 25, 2007

    Head coach: Dan Mullen (first year)
    2017 record and S&P+ ranking: 4-7 (86th)
    Projected 2018 record and S&P+ ranking: 7-5 (32nd)

    Five key points:
    1. On paper, Mullen is an extremely sound hire. We’ll see how long it takes him to dig Florida out of its canyon.
    2. He’s got the pieces for a strong run game, as RBs Malik Davis, Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine will run behind a vastly experienced line.
    3. You still need to be able to pass, and through sacks and inexperience, that’s been a massive problem. There’s upside in the WR corps, but it’s had upside for a decade now.
    4. UF played seemingly countless underclassmen on defense and gave up a ton of big plays. But aggressive DC Todd Grantham’s got experienced play-makers. (They’ll still give up big plays.)
    5. S&P+ projects the Gators 32nd and favors them in eight games. That would be a nice start, though that might be asking too much in a potential Year Zero situation.
    How long will it take Dan Mullen to get Florida out of its rut?